Karachi Style Kashmiri Chai (Pink Tea)

Kashmiri Chai

Three. That is how many Kashmri Chai posts I have written and not published. It seems that every time I about to I find another recipe, another technique, something with a pink that pops far more than mine and I go back to the drawing board. I have played with the quanities of tea leaves, the time it takes to cook, etc and time and time again I find myself back here, happily sipping away at this incarnation. 

Kashmiri Chai

Full disclaimer: my kashmiri chai does not achieve the incadescent pink that some do, and I don’t mind one bit. It is still beautiful and still delicious. I don’t like to sound cynical because it’s so uncool (lol), but I have now watched endless videos and read endless posts and learnt that in most cases the teas go from a mellow beige to a punchy pink through the miracles of photo editing more often than not. In some cases the tea leaves being used will have a pinkish tinge which is essentially a food dye. Since I am not familiar with the composition of the dye I haven’t ever tried those. For those of you who follow me on instagram (@flourandspiceblog) I have shared an edit free video of the process in my insta stories.

I keep calling it Kashmiri Chai, but the reality is that the authentic pink chai from Kashmir, also known as Noon Chai, is a savoury tea. This version is one that Karachiites like myself have grown up drinking. Like many trendy desserts now it is primarily sweet but with a salty note. If you want to make yours more authentic then skip the sugar or put a tiny amount and use half n half or cream instead of milk. 

Tips for Kashmiri Chai:
  • Although I believe certain brands of green tea can produce this beautiful colour you are best off using Kashmiri tea leaves. And not the ones in your cabinet for 2+ years.
  • Start brewing your tea with cold water
  • Cook, but make sure you never go below 1/4 of the original liquid (add more if necessary) simmering two hours ideal for that rich colour. The liquid will be a deep dark maroon
  • Shock with the coldest water you can to produce that beautiful color 
  • Phaita Lagana means to transfer the liquid from a height from one pot to another, do this for 5-8 minutes or more. The froth will become a foamy pink
  • Make sure you actually cook the liquid with your milk of choice for at least 5 minutes, that is 5 minutes of active simmering not just warming in a pot. The milk affects both colour and taste – generally I prefer evaporated milk here, but know of people who use half n half as well
  • Flavour – the aromatics you use will greatly impact flavour. Usually it is some combination of  whole cardamom, cinnamon sticks, and badiyan ka phool (star anise). I love it best with cardamom, but know that at weddings in Karachi Badiyan ka Phool is often used. 

The base or “kahwa” for Kashmiri Chai keeps well in the fridge for up to two weeks which is why I make a big batch. This much Kahwa is enough for 8 mugs of Kashmiri Chai since it is a fairly milky tea. 

Kashmiri Chai

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp Kashmiri Tea Leaves
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 5-6 Cardamom Pods
  • 1 Badiyan ka Phool (Optional)
  • 1 small piece of cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 2 cups ice cold water (I mix mine with ice)
  • finely chopped pistachios & almonds

Instructions

  1. Add all the ingredients except the ice cold water to a pot with 4 cups of cold tap water. 

  2. Bring to a boil, simmer for 2 hours, topping up if you need to so that the liquid doesn't drop below 1/4 of the original level 

  3. Run the tea through a sieve into a large bowl, press the tea leaves to extract every last bit of flavour and discard the tea leaves.

  4. Now get ready for a work out. Pour the ice cold water from a height into the tea concentrate.

  5. Pour back and forth from bowl to bowl or use a ladle to drop it back into the bowl from a height to aerate the tea. I suggest doing this in your sink or a prepped surface area since it does splash a bit. 

  6. After a full 5-8 minutes of doing this the foam the tea produces will take on a rich bodied pink

  7. Bring the tea mix back to a boil, simmer for five minutes. The "kahwa" is ready.

  8. To make each cup of tea: Take a ladle (about 1/3 of a cup) of the kahwa, bring to a boil, add 2/3 cup milk and a splash of water. At this stage I like to throw in an extra cardamom pod too. Cook for 2-3 minutes and serve topped with a scant spoon of crushed pistachios 

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